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June 28, 1996 - Image 78

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1996-06-28

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Detroiters spend 10 months watching a nation transform.

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ast September, my 11-year- ing and appliances from across
old son, Seth, and I set out the world.
on a 10-month visit to Kiev,
I admit to not understanding
where Ukrainians get the mon-
I was a Fulbright fellow, teach- ey they seem to be spending,
ing public management at the given the very low average
Ukrainian Academy of Public wages. Many people are work-
Administration, and Seth at- ing several jobs, and the under-
tended the Kiev International ground economy is at least equal
School with 110 other children to the official economy. There
are still lines in the bread stores,
from 19 countries.
Prior to Ukrainian indepen- but that is not because of short-
dence in 1991, this portion of the ages.
The center of Kiev is quite
former Soviet Union was "off lim-
beautiful, with many buildings
its" to the West.
Our experiences were out- dating from the late 1800s and
standing in every dimension. We early 1900s, magnificent parks
witnessed and participated in the and tree-lined boulevards.
transformation of Ukraine after
The need for physical renewal
475 years of either Russian im- is everywhere, however. Seth and
perialism or Soviet totalitari-
anism. We made many friends
and were treated fabulously.
Professionally, I taught
courses in public management
and public policy (using a
translator) to the 110 full-time
students at the Academy of
Public Administration. In ad-
dition, I met weekly with a
small group of students who
are concentrating in urban
management to discuss relat-
ed issues in English.
Seth was my travel mate
and partner-in-discovery for
the year.' He enjoyed the stu-
dents at the International Raymond and Seth Rosenfeld at the Kiev train
School and was learning the station.
Ukrainian language.
But the highlight for him was I relied on the mass transit sys-
his music instruction. Twice tem to get around Kiev. The sub-
weekly, he had private lessons in way system is relatively small
cello and piano.
and probably beyond capacity,
Music was an important part while the trolleys are beyond
of our lives in Ukraine. Kiev's imagination.
opera house is magnificent, and
One of our now-favorite stories
its opera and ballet companies of Kiev is the time I lost Seth on
match the facility: Tickets are in- Trolley 18, one of the most crowd-
credibly inexpensive, and for the ed trolleys around. We were sep-
first few months Seth and I av- arated for more than three hours.
eraged two operas, ballets or Yet, with the warmth and assis-
symphonic performances per tance of a stranger and one of
Seth's teachers, he did reappear
I am told that two years ago after touring the distant outskirts
there was but a handful of of the city.
restaurants in Kiev. Yet today,
Seth and I did a fair amount of
new restaurants open weekly traveling. We met Janelle and
with such names as Atlanta, Ari- Bryn (Dr. Rosenfeld's wife and
zona BBQ, Boston Burger and daughter) in Paris for the De-
Kentucky Beirut Chicken. Two cember break, and then we trav-
years ago there were shortages eled alone to Amsterdam. We also
of almost all consumer goods in went to Strasbourg, France; and
Kiev, but today Ukrainians can Frankfurt, Karlsruhe, Freiberg,
shop in stores full of food, cloth- Kehl and Heidelberg, Germany.
For spring break we traveled to
Istanbul and Antalya, Turkey.
Dr. Rosenfeld is a political
Within Ukraine, we traveled
science professor and director of
in all directions: west to L'viv,
the master of public
south to Odessa and Yalta, and
administration program at
east to Severodonetsk and
Eastern Michigan University.
He and Seth have now returned
In these travels we visited
to Michigan.


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Night In Ukraine





many Jewish museums, old
synagogues, Catholic, Eastern
Orthodox and Protestant church-
es/cathedrals as well as many
We tried to maintain some
links to our Jewish life. We at-
tended High Holy Day services
at the Podil Synagogue in Kiev
where, like most Ukrainians,
Jews previously hid their reli-
gious practices. Chief Rabbi
Yakov Bleich of Ukraine is based
there. He is an American who im-
migrated first to Israel and then
to Ukraine prior to independence.
He has revitalized his syna-
gogue and created Jewish day
schools for girls and boys with
over 300 students in each. In ad-
dition he feeds the needy Jew-
ish elderly daily in the
synagogue basement and has
a weekly, nationally broadcast
television show.
During Janelle's visit to
Ukraine, she brought two gifts
from Temple Beth El in
Bloomfield Township for the
Podil Synagogue. Rabbi Ble-
ich was extremely grateful for
the silver, early 20th-century
German Chanukah menorah
and the silver 19th-century
German spice box.
Janelle and Bryn joined us
for Pesach, and we had first
seder at the synagogue as
guests of Rabbi Bleich. For
second seder, we were the
guests of the Israeli Embassy at
a magnificent gathering of 250.
We sat with an official of the em-
bassy and the Jewish third sec-
retary and commercial attache of
the Hungarian Embassy.
I was privileged to be asked to
be one of a half dozen who par-
ticipated in the reading of the
In Kiev, we visited both the So-
viet and Israeli Babi Yar memo-
rials, as well as two former
synagogues (one is now the
House of Actors, and the other is
a puppet theater. We attended a
Jewish music concert at the for-
mer, and there are services held
upstairs in the latter).
In Odessa, we were taken on
a tour by the computer instruc-
tor of the Jewish day school. We
also visited the Chabad syna-
gogue in Odessa, which is under
total reconstruction. It was giv-
en back to the Jewish communi-
ty in such bad condition that it
was useless.
Unfortunately, the most active
congregation's synagogue build-
ing collapsed several months ago,
and the members have unsuc-
cessfully tried to convince the

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